Local law enforcement agencies are working together to raise money and awareness for the Lee County Special Olympics through Cops on Top — an annual event that will take place on April 13.
Officers from the Auburn Police Division will be showing support for Special Olympics athletes, coaches and volunteers at the Kroger on Dean Road during the event, which will last from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. They will be accompanied by some local athletes and collecting donations for the Lee County Special Olympics (LCSO) as well as selling T-shirts.
Police officers who have been sponsored by businesses and community members will be supporting LCSO from on high.
"We are offering to local businesses and anyone who is interested the opportunity to sponsor police officers for an hour to be up on the roof," said Elizabeth Kaufman, LCSO director. "It's $100 to sponsor and it's an extra fun thing for the event."
Cops on Top will also take place at the Kroger in Tiger Town, where the Opelika Police Department and the Lee County Sheriff's Department will be on site.
Both locations will sell $12 T-shirts that celebrate the 50th year of the Alabama Law Enforcement Torch Run, which kicks off the Special Olympics of Alabama State Games in May.
About 50 to 60 athletes from Lee County will travel to participate in the state games, which occur May 18-20. Although Kaufman is not sure exactly which athletes will be competing on a state level yet, she said they are all already practicing for the annual event.
"They are getting very excited," she said. "They've already started asking me who's going."
After state games, about 20 athletes and coaches will then have the opportunity to go to Seattle and compete in nationals, which only roll around every four years.
"They cannot wait," Kaufman said of the athletes who will travel to the national games. "A lot of these kids don't travel very regularly, so this is a huge thing to let them get out and have that fun experience."
Money raised during Cops on Top goes toward travel expenses, hotel costs and meals as well as any equipment needed during the year. Kaufman stressed that all money raised will stay in Lee County to support local athletes and programs.
"The dollars raised go toward any aspect of Special Olympics within Lee County. I try to highlight that because I think it is important to know," she said. "We always need new equipment, and if it's not equipment, it's travel. That's a huge piece right now because we have state games coming up ... and we'll be sending about 20 athletes and coaches to Seattle (for nationals), so that's plane tickets, hotels, meals. A big need right now is some extra dollars to support travel. We're so excited to be sending all those athletes to nationals."
Cops on Top is one of two big fundraisers for LCSO held annually. The Polar Plunge takes place in January and, this year, raised about $12,000. Kaufman said the goal for Cops on Top is to beat that, and she is working to make the event fun for community members.
"We have some special guests coming, and we're going to try to have music there," she said. "We're going to try to really make a day of it."
Food will also be for sale throughout the day at both locations.
Cash or check donations will be accepted, and checks should be made out to the Lee County Special Olympics. For those interested in sponsoring an officer, email email@example.com.